I finished writing Defending Evangeline yesterday! Woot! It’s longer than my usual story, and it about killed me!
Today will be a busy one. I have to do a final readthrough before I ship DE off to my sister. The story “lives” in her Brotherhood Protectors–Team Trojan world. As soon as I finish that, I’ll be editing one final story for the Cowboys: A Boys Behaving Badly Anthology, which releases October 12th! Then it’s straight to another author’s story I have to wrap up the edits for by Friday! Yes, a big busy day!!! Oh, the glamorous life of an author-editor!
Tomorrow, I start another book with a VERY SHORT deadline. Yeah, I’ll be typing until my fingers are little stumps—oh, wait! They already are! But enough whining.
Let me know what stories you’re looking forward to reading, not just mine!And be sure to enter the contests I have listed below. They’re still open!
“His GPS is pinging just ahead,” Martika Mills said, raising her gaze from her handheld tracking device to point ahead toward the bend in the river.
Pierce Hardman took his attention off scanning the banks and slowed their boat in the center of the shallow river. They’d need to gear up before approaching their target, Matthew Harper, who’d skipped his date with the judge the previous week. The once-convicted felon had been set to appear on charges stemming from a string of home burglaries. Just another dumbass who thought the rules didn’t apply to him and didn’t want to work for his money.
“Finally, it’s cold as shit on this water,” Preacher’s voice came over the comms. He was in the jon boat behind Hardman and Marti’s little two-seater sneak boat and was accompanied by Dagger and Lacey. They hadn’t really needed so many hunters for this takedown, but since healthy bounties had been a bit scarce the last few weeks, and everyone was bored, they’d decided to move on Harper together.
When they’d planned this river grab, they hadn’t taken into account maneuvering on the chilly water. They wore shorts with sweatshirts or hoodies on top. Nothing other than the thin padding atop Hardman’s aluminum seat kept his balls from freezing.
He twisted the handle on the outboard motor to put it into neutral, slowing the boat further. While the boat drifted, he and Marti removed their life vests and donned the gear they’d brought in a duffle—their Kevlar vests, their badges, and lastly, they strapped holstered weapons to their thighs.
“We look ridiculous,” Lacey said with a laugh. “Who wears shorts and boat shoes to a takedown?”
Marti rolled her eyes. Hardman smirked. Lacey could always be counted on for fashion commentary. The curvy blonde was the only hunter sporting pink and grey camouflaged attire.
“Hardman, you got our new toy?” Preacher asked.
Hardman bent to the duffle and removed the new “Spiderman” bolo gun, which he clipped to his vest. “Got it.”
“Has he moved?” Dagger asked.
Again, Marti bent to look at the tracker. “Nope. He’s sitting still.”
Hardman hoped that meant he was busy fishing.
“Hope he didn’t ditch the ankle monitor,” Marti mumbled. “Or we rented these boats for nothing.”
“We ready?” Dagger asked.
“We’re a go,” Hardman said and twisted the outboard motor’s handle again to move slowly toward the bend.
As they rounded the curve, they spotted a small boat beached against a steep bank, a rope tied around a fallen tree to keep it there, but no sign of Harper.
Hardman aimed the boat at the bank, gave the motor a bit of juice then set it into neutral. They drifted into the bank, and he jumped off the side into shallow water. “You stay with the boat,” he said to Marti. “We don’t need it floating away.”
“Why do you get all the fun?” she asked, her eyebrows lowering.
“Because I was in the water first,” he said, grinning.
Dagger slid his boat beside the sneaker boat and tossed his mooring line to Marti. “Make sure it doesn’t go anywhere.”
Marti’s glower darkened.
Hardman chuckled as he climbed the bank, glancing around to look for any signs of where their quarry might have gone.
“He’s pinging from up there,” Marti said in a hushed tone from below. When he glanced back, she was pointing toward the top of the steep bank. “Maybe twenty feet in.” She held up the tracker. “Sure you don’t need me?”
“We’ll manage,” he said. “Just give us a shout if he moves.”
Hardman reached for branches, knotty roots, and grass to pull himself up the bank.
Beside him, Dagger pushed on Lacey’s butt to get her up the side, and Preacher dug his toes into loose dirt to “step” his way up. Once they all stood on the top of the embankment, they spread out to commence their search. As well, they didn’t need to be bunched together since they didn’t know for sure whether Harper was armed. Not that his file indicated he was dangerous, but a cornered dog might bite.
Hardman studied the ground and brush around him, looking for tracks.
“Got him,” Dagger said quietly.
Hardman glanced his way. Dagger pointed to footprints and touched a broken branch. Signaling that he’d take point, he aimed a glare at Lacey, who frowned but let Hardman and Preacher trail behind him before falling in at the end of the line.
They went maybe fifteen feet into the brush when Dagger squatted and held up a closed fist. They all took a knee. Dagger pointed at his eyes then raised two fingers. Harper had company.
Then they heard noise up ahead. Soft groans, a thready moan. The distinctive slap of flesh on flesh. Matthew Harper was getting busy in the grass.
Dagger pointed to Preacher and then to his left.
Keeping low, Preacher moved quietly to the left of the couple.
Following Dagger’s hand signals, Hardman moved to the right. When he reached his position, he low-crawled through tall grass until he saw glimpses of pink flesh between the waving blades. A man’s ass was flexing, driving downward. Pale, plump legs encircled his hips.
By the speed of his movements, he was getting close.
“Ready?” Dagger whispered.
“Ah, let him finish,” Lacey said. “It’ll be a long time before he gets to knock against someone with breasts again.”
Marti snickered in his ear.
“We even sure he’s our guy?” Preacher grumbled.
“Can’t tell. I’ve got the rear view, and his ankles are hidden in the grass,” Hardman whispered, grimacing, because he really didn’t want to take a closer look.
“I’m getting closer,” Lacey said.
“Stay the fuck where you are,” Dagger bit out.
“Oh. He’s got a shaved head,” Lacey said.
Which could be a problem. Harper had had long, frizzy hair in his booking photo.
“Gotta wait until they get up to ID him,” Dagger said.
The couple on the ground rolled until the female sat atop the male. She was a well-rounded woman with large breasts and a generous behind.
“She’s certainly energetic,” Lacey said as the woman bounced over the man’s hips.
At last, the woman’s head fell back, and a series of “Oh-oh-ohs” echoed in the clearing.
The man gripped her hips and rutted upward before letting out a loud shout.
“Satisfied, Lace?” Dagger drawled.
“Nope, but they sure are.”
The hunters stood, drawing their weapons.
“Fugitive Recovery Agents!” Dagger shouted.
The couple froze. Then the man tossed the woman to the side and bolted up from the ground. Nude, he barreled past Lacey, knocking her to the ground, and headed straight toward the river.
“Got a runner,” Hardman said, following close on the man’s heels.
“I’ll keep my eyes peeled,” Marti said.
As his feet pounded the dirt, Hardman noted the black ankle monitor the naked man wore. “It’s our guy.”
“I’m staying with the woman,” Lacey said. “I’ll help her find her clothes.”
“Hardman, get the lead out,” Dagger bit out. “Don’t let him get to that boat.”
When Harper approached the edge of the bank, Hardman expected the man to slow down, but he didn’t. Hardman reached out, grabbing for his shoulder, but Harper leapt into the air then bumped on his naked ass down the side of the embankment.
“He’s over the edge,” Hardman said, skidding on his own backside over rocks and exposed roots.
“I see him,” Marti shouted.
Hardman heard a splash.
“Marti, don’t let those boats get away,” Dagger said. “It’s my credit card on the deposit!”
At the bottom of the embankment, Hardman pushed off the ground and ran behind Harper, who was nearing his beached skiff. Hardman would never catch the skip before he was inside it, so he unclipped the Spiderman bolo gun and aimed for the man’s thighs.
He struck Harper at the back of his knees just as he entered the water—and just as Marti jumped in front of him to prevent him getting into his boat.
The bolo deployed and wrapped around his knees. Harper fell forward—on top of Marti—and they both sank into the water.
Hardman rushed toward them and pulled on Harper’s shoulders.
Marti sat in the water and gulped in air with Harper still pinning her hips to the bottom of the river. “You did this on purpose!” she said, glaring at Hardman. “Get him off me.”
“Sorry, ma’am,” Matthew Harper said, sounding miserable. “But water’s so cold I can’t get it up anyway.”
Marti smacked his chest. “No one better have a camera!”
“Too late,” Dagger quipped.
Hardman glanced over his shoulders at Dagger who held out his iPhone. He was bent at the waist laughing.
Hardman wrapped an arm around Harper’s middle and lifted him off Marti who scooted backward then slowly stood. She looked down at her wet clothing and gear and her lips curled in disgust. When her gaze met Hardman’s, it narrowed. “Not a word. Ever.”
“I did tell you to stay with the boat,” he said, his tone cheerful.
UPDATE: The winners are…Delaine, Elaine Swinney, and Margaret!
Another update! Delaine has all the MBH books, so she’s passing the win to Sue Payton!
I love my Montana Bounty Hunters. I really try hard to make each of them individual rather than cookie-cutter characters with different names. I also love to dream up unique takedowns for your reading pleasure and to showcase who these men are. One of my favorite scenes was “Animal chasing the bear”, which is part of the Montana Bounty Hunters’ cable TV series lore now. You know what I mean if you’ve read the books! Anyway, I’m sharing that scene today. It’s not long. Enjoy!
MONTANA BOUNTY HUNTERS: Authentic Men… Real Adventures…
A rough-around-the-edges bounty hunter takes a nature photographer on a wild ride.
Former SEAL, Russell “Animal” Hathcoat, retreated to a remote mountain cabin after leaving the Navy. Haunted by horrific images that replay in his nightmares of his last mission with his SEAL brothers, he intends to renovate the dilapidated cabin as penance and therapy, and to avoid rejoining the world around him. But then, someone who understands what he needs better than he does arrives to offer him a job.
Allie Travers loves the freedom and solitude of being a nature photographer and journalist—until the day she stares through her lens at a charging black bear. With her heart in her throat, she can only stand watching in horror, knowing she’ll never escape in time. But rescue comes in the form of a wild man who risks his life to frighten away the animal.
Once the danger is past, she’s told by his team of bounty hunters that she has more to fear than any animal in the woods. A felon is on the loose, and she has to accompany them to safety. Seeing an opportunity, Allie shadows the team as they hunt their prey deep in a national forest. Much to Animal’s dismay, more than just his protective instincts are aroused by the pretty photojournalist.
Are you all caught up reading the Montana Bounty Hunters?
For a chance to win a download of one of the stories you may have missed
(I’ll pick three winners!), tell me this:
What profession other than bounty hunters would you like to see in future Montana Bounty Hunters—Dead Horse branch, and beyond—stories?
Here are all the Bear Lodge Montana Bounty Hunters!
The moment Taco lowered his nose to the ground, following Tibbets’s trail from the camper’s metal steps, they’d realized the man had headed straight into the woods, afoot, rather than driving out.
They’d left Dagger, Lacey, and Cochise behind to watch for any movement in town, and to keep an eye out for any of his relatives who looked ready to head north with supplies to help him out. The rest of the team members grabbed their gear from their vehicles and began tracking Tibbets into Flathead National Forest.
Animal didn’t mind the rough conditions. He was accustomed to long marches and sleeping on the ground. None of the hunters, even Carly Stenberg, complained about the conditions, even after they’d endured a chilly rain the previous day. They’d dried their clothes beside a fire last night, reasonably assured they were still a day’s hike from catching up to Tibbets. Conversation had flowed around him, but he hadn’t felt the need to try to contribute.
This was a tight, well-trained crew, and they knew each other well. But they seemed to understand he wasn’t the chatty type. He rather liked the fact they let him be.
They came to the edge of the woods. A large meadow stretched before them, mountains in the background. The meadow was broken on one side by ridges of exposed rock.
“We got company,” Reaper said quietly. They all held back, remaining hidden in the brush. Reaper lifted an arm and pointed.
Animal pulled out his tactical telescope and followed Reaper’s direction, at last spotting a slender figure standing beside an outcropping. Not their mark. A woman. She stood in front of a tripod and peered into a camera. She had wheat-colored hair drawn back into a messy braid. She wore a red plaid shirt and a khaki vest over blue jeans and boots.
Suddenly, she jerked back her head, giving him a glimpse of her profile. Her eyebrows were lowered, her mouth dropping as she stared down the hill.
He turned his telescope toward whatever had caught her attention and immediately understood her concern.
A baby black bear ambled into the clearing, heading upward toward her location.
“Where’s mama?” he whispered.
As though answering his question, a loud bellow sounded from the forest farther down the tree line. A large bear ran out, huffing and bellowing, heading toward the woman.
He didn’t have even a millisecond to think through a better plan. Animal dumped his pack and ran into the clearing, tearing at his shirt. When he’d ripped off the buttons down the front, he flapped the edges, trying to make himself look bigger. “Ha! Ha!” he yelled as loud as he could to draw the bear’s attention away from the woman.
Mama bear bounced on her front paws and spun toward him.
“Don’t shoot unless you have to!” Animal tossed over his shoulder to Reaper.
“Don’t get in my line of fire!” Reaper shouted back.
“Don’t shoot her!” the woman screamed.
“You shut up!” Animal yelled, still running, still flapping. Didn’t she realize he was trying to draw the bear’s attention away from her?
The bear’s head moved from Animal, to Reaper behind him, and again to the woman, likely trying to decide who was the biggest danger to her cub.
Animal roared and flapped and moved a little closer.
The baby bear squalled and changed direction, running for his mama.
Just when Animal feared the bear would charge, she spun and ran into the woods, her cub running right behind her.
Animal halted, breathing hard. He gave another flap of his shirt. “Ha! Ha!” he shouted, hoping she’d been startled bad enough not to turn around.
Then he heard a whirring sound, coming from up the rise. He turned his head toward the woman. The sound came from her camera. Animal gave her a fierce glare then began to stalk up the rise.
When he reached her, she straightened and flashed him a wide smile. “Thanks for that. Thought for a second there I was going to be lunch.”
“What the hell!” he bellowed, anger shot through him. Didn’t she have a clue how close to being “lunch” he’d been, trying to rescue her? And all she’d thought about was taking her damn pictures?
Her eyebrows shot upward, and she stood still.
Behind him, he heard more of his team stomping up the hill. He should have turned and walked away. Should have let Reaper handle getting her packed up and off the mountain. Away from him.
Instead, anger vibrated through him. He glanced at the gear strewn around her feet. “Who the hell comes out to the wilderness without a goddamn gun?”
“The only shots I plan to take are with my camera,” she said icily, lifting her chin.
He ground his teeth as his face heated.
“Wish I’d been shooting video though,” she said. “The footage would’ve gone viral. Do you chase bears often?”
This is just a reminder in case you missed it! Book #4 in the Montana Bounty Hunters: Dead Horse, MT series it out! And so far, readers are embracing it! I think you’ll get a kick out if it, but don’t listen to me, read what other readers are saying…
“Chase and Rhonda’s story is as close to the fairy tale as you can get.”
“This book was absolutely fantastic and I was absolutely hooked from the beginning until the end.”
“It’s fast-moving with takedowns, babysitting, break-ins, and a film crew shadowing the bounty hunters. The action is also hot and sexy between the sheets when Chase and Rhonda finally get together…”
“…fast-paced love that will last a lifetime with a passel of kids, hopefully…”
“Chase: He was the perfect addition to the team. He levels them all.”
You’ll love Rhonda and Chase, but you’ll also get a glimpse of a new bounty hunter hero—Cowboy!
UPDATE: The winners are…Michelle, Arlene Miklovic, and Courtney Kinder!
The Montana Bounty Hunters series located in Bear Lodge is complete. I am four books into the spinoff series, Montana Bounty Hunters: Dead Horse, MT,and I’m working on #5. I loved writing the original series, and I can’t wait to immerse myself in writing many more of these heavy-duty, gritty guys in the near future. Have you seen the cover for Cowboy, which will release in October, if not sooner? Yeah. Some of the guys you love from the original series will continue to pop up here and there in Dead Horse—after all, they all work for Fetch Winter. Someday, he’ll get his happy-ever-after, too!
MONTANA BOUNTY HUNTERS: Authentic Men… Real Adventures…
Former Marine “Wolf” Patterson is working with a team of MBH bounty hunters in the densely forested Kootenai Forest to bring in one Reese Tobin, a man wanted for arson, who escaped from jail just before his trial. When Wolf catches up to him, Tobin draws a gun, telling Wolf he can’t return to lock-up or he’s a dead man. Just as one of his teammates is about to lunge toward Tobin to take him down, a shot rings out, and Reese is dead.
Former Army Military Police Officer, now Deputy, Meg Henry, was the officer who arrested Tobin, and nothing about that night sat right since. After hearing he was killed, she heads to Kootenai, hoping to talk to the men who were with him last, hoping Tobin told them something that might help her figure out the mystery surrounding him. Because handsome bounty hunter, Wolf, was the last to talk to Tobin, Meg offers Wolf a ride back to the sheriff’s department. They barely begin their conversation when they find themselves running for their lives. Meg doesn’t know who to trust, but she instinctively trusts the tall, intensely attractive Wolf. Together, they work to unravel the mystery while staying one step ahead of someone who wants them both dead.
Are you all caught up reading the Montana Bounty Hunters?
For a chance to win a download of one of the stories you may have missed
(I’ll pick three winners!), tell me this: Where else, other than Montana, would you like a Bounty Hunter book set?
Here are all the Bear Lodge Montana Bounty Hunters!
Once she arrived home, Meg checked her windows and the locks on every door. Not that she was paranoid, but given what she’d been through, she wasn’t going to be careless. Plus, her house was isolated and five minutes from Amity. While most days, she liked the fact she had no neighbors close by, times like this kept her on edge. When she finished her rounds, she showered and changed, keeping her service pistol always within reach.
She’d hoped standing under the hot spray would relax her, but when she’d dressed again, this time in jeans and a soft tee, she felt restless, so she made herself a cup of coffee and carried her laptop into the living room. With it resting on her lap, she thought maybe she should write her mom a short email, just to tell her she was okay and thinking about her. Instead, she paused, her fingers hovering over the keys.
She opened her browser and typed in a search, inputting the address of the warehouse, and then hit enter.
The first item in the list that appeared was a link to an article in the local newspaper about the fire and Reese Tobin’s arrest. She read the article, but there was nothing there she didn’t already know.
She hit the back key and began searching the other items in the list. She came to one that listed the owner of the warehouse, Bear Claw Industries. She clicked on the blue, underlined company name, and that link took her to an ad in the yellow pages. Bear Claw Industries was a shipping company and a sole proprietor company owned by “Red” Barton, a state congressman.
Not sure where this was leading, if anywhere at all, she typed in “Red Barton, Amity MT”. The list included articles, and one by one she immersed herself in the congressman’s history.
Red Barton was a member of the Methodist church, had a pretty wife, had run for mayor and lost, but won when he ran unopposed for the state congress. He was a supporter of states’ rights and the second amendment. And he’d gotten some flack in the editorial section of the newspaper over the fact he’d spoken at a gathering for a local militia, where he’d given a speech about gun rights and the limited sovereignty of the government. Another link led her to a description of the rest of the agenda for that meeting and a list of those who’d attended. When she read the names, a sick feeling lodged in the pit of her stomach. Reese Tobin and Bennie Jacobs had both been there. They had both been members of the Free Montana Militia.
There was the connection. She quickly scanned the other names, and thankfully, found no deputies among them, but she didn’t know the rest of the men. She sent the agenda with the list of names to her printer, and then remembered her coffee, which had cooled.
She set aside her laptop and bent toward the coffee table to pick up her cup when the silence was disturbed by glass shattering and the dull thud of something hitting the wall behind her.
Meg threw herself to the floor, reached onto the coffee table for her service Glock, and crawled toward the kitchen. There she slid upward to the junction box and turned off the electricity.
Darkness fell around her, and she suddenly realized she’d left her cellphone on her dresser in her bedroom. She was on her own.
In the distance, she heard the deep, rattling hum of a motorcycle engine, but she was more concerned about any sounds she could detect nearer, like the rattling of a doorknob or the shattering of more glass should an intruder try to get inside.
Well, she wasn’t sitting there waiting for trouble. No matter how hard it was to keep her breaths even.
With her weapon held in front of her, she moved out of the kitchen and back toward the living room. She had to be sure that what she’d heard had been a gunshot. Crouching low, she moved toward the window across from the sofa and nudged aside the sheer panel. In the moonlight, she could see the tear in the fabric and noted the round, splintered circle in the glass.
She had to make the call. Alert the sheriff. Then warn Wolf that someone wasn’t leaving them alone. As she moved toward the hallway, a whoosh sounded, like the slide of a window moving upward. But she’d locked them all, hadn’t she? Swallowing hard, she moved toward the sound. It had come from her bedroom.
With her heart pounding in her chest, she felt that rush she always had in combat, when everything around her slowed down and her mind focused on the mission, the goal—the intruder in her house. She set her back to the hallway wall and moved slowly sideways, listening for footsteps, the creak of a floorboard. But there was only silence.
Beside the door, she drew a slow, quiet breath, drew her courage around her like a cloak, and moved inside, again, keeping her back to the wall. She crouched beside the dresser and glanced toward the window. The curtain billowed inward on a gust of wind.
The shadows inside the room were hard to distinguish, but then she saw a movement. One large dark shape moving from beside the window. She held still, not breathing, until the large frame passed her. Then she rose, coming up behind the man who stood in the doorframe, his head cocked.
She pressed the muzzle of her weapon against his ribs.
At his whisper, she drew a sharper breath. “Wolf?” She held her weapon away and leaned against his back as she struggled not to shiver. “What are you doing here?” she whispered harshly.
“Let’s not talk about it now. Two men, I think the same ones who disabled your car, are right outside your house.”
If you’ve read Hardman, you’ve already met Chase. The crew is up to its usual fun with new manhunts and the high-spirited interactions between all the hunters in the Dead Horse office. You’ll also meet the newest member of the team. There’s some suspense, tons of humor, sexiness only an extremely focused and fit man can bring, and a subplot that will pull at your heartstrings. This book’s theme is family. I hope you love it!
MONTANA BOUNTY HUNTERS: DEAD HORSE, MT Authentic Men… Real Adventures…
The happily single owner of the only liquor store in Dead Horse, MT needs the biggest, baddest man around, and a certain former Green Beret seems made to order…
When Chase Kudrow leaves the Green Berets, he is ready to throw off rules and regs and be his own damn boss. Bounty hunting doesn’t tie him down and occasionally gives him the adrenaline rush he craves.
Then he discovers he has a niece, an eight-year-old, who is the only family he has left. Suddenly, his life gets serious. He needs a steadier paycheck and a place to set down roots so he can do right by his dead sister’s little girl. Being recruited by the Montana Bounty Hunters: Dead Horse, MT, office perfectly fits the bill.
His “get serious” agenda soon finds him in the company of one of the town’s “good” women, Rhonda Kudrow, who owns the local liquor store. Sure, she’s pretty and seems interested, but what does he know about wooing a good woman who will certainly expect more than he knows how to give?
When her store is robbed, Chase swoops in to provide some much-needed security expertise and protection and soon discovers an addiction he never wants to kick. Sweet Rhonda is full of her own sexy surprises…
On June 22nd, CHASE releases! It’s book #4 in the Montana Bounty Hunters: Dead Horse, MT series—an offshoot of my Montana Bounty Hunters series. I’m still writing the story! Gah! I hate running it up to the wire, but I’ll get there. In the meantime, have you pre-ordered your copy? Read an excerpt below to get a hint of the fun I have in store for you!
Chase Kudrow flipped down his visor to shut out the bright morning sun beaming through his windshield. He was parked on Main Street in Dead Horse, congratulating himself on his good sense in accepting the job with Montana Bounty Hunters’ Dead Horse office because he was here, hunting a skip, and not living out of his truck in bumfuck Colorado…or Wyoming…or Idaho. Sure, Cage Morgan, his new boss, had said they’d be looking for the richest bounties in a multi-state area when he’d offered him the job, but as luck would have it, today’s hunt was right in their own backyard.
Chase would never admit it to any of his new bounty hunter brothers, but he’d been ready to settle down and stop living out of a suitcase. He needed to put down roots and prove he could provide a stable home—to himself and to the caseworker handling his niece’s situation. No way in hell was he letting his blood relative, his little sister’s orphaned daughter, be raised by strangers.
The job offer had come at just the right moment. Although he’d feigned resistance to joining the hunters as part of their newly formed satellite agency, inside, he’d been jubilant. He’d hemmed and hawed for days, and he’d done his homework, reaching out to hunter friends in the Kalispell office to make sure this gig was legit, and that he could trust the people he’d be working with. The more he’d learned, the more certain he was that his accepting the job was meant to be.
Yes, there was a lot left to iron out. He had yet to find a house. Work had been pretty busy, but he’d be asking Cage for some time off to find a home and fill it with furniture and the things an eight-year-old might need or want, and for him to meet with local school officials to talk about what he’d need to get Mikayla enrolled. Then the hard work would begin to get Miss Tight-ass Bradshaw at Child and Family Services in Billings to sign off.
The last time she’d seen him, she’d shaken her head. “How do you think you can care for a little girl? You live like a gypsy, Mr. Kudrow. All your past mailing addresses have been forwarding services because you’re never in one place longer than a month. How are you going to be a father to Mikayla?”
He’d shifted in his chair, knowing his petition looked bad, but this was Audra’s girl. He hadn’t been there for her mother, hadn’t even had any idea how much trouble she’d been in. His mama, had she been alive, would have been so disappointed in him for his neglect while he’d been out living his life.
No more. He’d lived like a nomad since his days in the military. He’d liked seeing the world, but when he’d gotten fed up with the rigor and the rules he’d had to abide by in the Army, he’d left and found the one job ideally suited to his wandering ways. Even now, working from a home base in Dead Horse, bounty hunting allowed him to roam just far enough to keep from feeling that itch to pull up stakes and move, and it gave him the occasional adrenaline rush he craved. The targets were varied, and hunting them down never got boring. Except when he was on stakeouts, like this one.
Today’s target was Billy Calloway, one of the Calloway brothers who ran a junkyard east of town, who’d been busted with a shit-ton of stolen catalytic converters. He’d refused to give the DA the names of his suppliers so he was facing multiple charges for receiving stolen goods. Since he was a three-time offender, the judge had set his bail at $100,000—high for the crime, but Judge Hodges was setting an example for the other Calloways.
Then the dumbass skipped his court date…
Chase picked up the manila folder Fredericka “Fig” Newton, their office manager and tech guru, had prepared for all the hunters combing their hometown for this skip. Billy was a scrawny fucker, with greasy brown hair, a scruffy beard, and one eye that permanently looked down his nose. He’d be easy to spot.
The passenger door beside him opened, and Dylan “Preacher” Priestley, his new partner, climbed into the seat beside him holding a small pink box in his hand.
“Took your damn time,” Chase groused, not really concerned, but he and Preacher enjoyed that kind of relationship, always griping at each other but quick to jump into action when the situation called for it. Three weeks in, and Chase wondered how he’d ever gone it alone as a bounty hunter. Having a partner made things like boring-ass stakeouts kind of fun.
“They’re straight out of the oven,” Preacher said, opening the box to reveal two big donuts. Preacher’s hand hovered over them.
“Don’t even think about takin’ the one with the sprinkles,” Chase said, giving him a glare.
Preacher shrugged. “Sprinkles taste like chalky sugar anyway.” He plucked the pink glazed donut from the box and left the cream-colored one with sprinkles for Chase.
Chase plucked his from the box, took a bite, and groaned. “Don’t know how you aren’t fat.”
Preacher waggled his eyebrows. “She makes me work for them.”
“TMI, man,” Chase said, holding up a hand.
Preacher grinned. “Sorry it took so long. I had to taste wedding cakes when I was in there.”
Chase wrinkled his nose. “Way to kill my appetite, man. Weddings!” He gave a mock shudder.
Preacher chuckled. “Laura and Rhonda have this huge notebook. It takes up an entire table when they open it. It has polaroids of cakes and things to decorate the tables with, flower arrangements—”
Chase narrowed his eyes and looked out the windshield. “Rhonda’s in there?”
“Yeah, why?” Preacher shot him a sly sideways glance.
“Just wonderin’. Haven’t seen much of her lately. Her sister’s behind the counter at the Dem Bones Package Store every time I stop to buy beer.”
Preacher arched an eyebrow. “You crushing on Rhonda?”
Chase gave him a deadpan look. “I don’t crush on women. Just sayin’. She seems pretty busy with all that wedding shit.”
“She’s been a huge help to Laura. Says she loved planning her wedding more than she loved her ex-husband. Said it should have told her something.”
“Didn’t know she’s been married…”
“Yeah, for five years, until her husband up and left town with a massage therapist.”
“Must have been rubbing more than his back.”
Preacher shrugged. “Laura doesn’t talk much about him. Guess he left her the store and a pile of debt. She’s been digging herself out of that mess for years.”
Chase finished off his donut and followed it with a gargle of coffee straight from his thermos. When he screwed the lid back on, he glanced down the street. His attention was snagged by two men stepping out of Dead Center Guns & Pawn, both holding handguns and wearing camouflage masks pulled over their chins and noses. They were running toward a beat-up pickup parked alongside the curb.
“Think we got trouble,” he said to Preacher, tapping his ignition button and glancing up and down the street before punching the gas pedal and pulling out of his parking space.
“Damn.” Preacher hit the button on his radio. “Hey, Fig!”
“Yeah, Preacher. What’s up?”
“I think we’ve got a robbery in progress on Main Street. Saw two armed individuals coming out of the pawn shop. Call 9-1-1.”
The tailpipe of the beat-up pickup belched smoke, and then the truck jumped the curb and careened down the street.